When a married woman gives birth in California, her husband is presumed to be the father of her child. In cases of infidelity, however, this is not always the case. You may suspect your child is not yours at birth, or you may find out your child is not yours after you have been raising your son or daughter for some time.
No matter your situation, your first step should be discussing your case with an attorney.
How Do I Know If My Baby Is Mine or Not?
You can determine whether or not your baby is yours by taking a DNA paternity test. These tests are nearly 100% accurate in determining if a man is someone’s biological father. You and your potential child can give blood samples at a medical office or swab the insides of your cheeks for cells.
From there, your samples will be sent to a lab and compared. If the DNA confirms genetic matches, your baby is yours. If the DNA does not confirm genetic matches, someone else may be the biological father of the child.
Use caution when requesting a paternity test, as the results may not benefit you. Consider the pros and cons of determining paternity in your situation because if you cannot accomplish anything legally, you, your child, and your family may be better off not knowing.
Can a Mother Refuse a Court-Ordered Paternity Test?
If you ask the mother of your potential child for a paternity test, and she says no, you will need to obtain a court order. A mother cannot refuse a court-ordered paternity test without facing serious consequences, but the court will only order a paternity test if it is in the best interest of the child.
For example, consider you have been married to your wife for 10 years and raising your child together for 5 years. Your wife may not agree to a paternity test, and the court may not order one because you are already the legal father, and it is not in your child’s best interest to have their parental relationships altered.
As the Judicial Council of California explains:
“The laws on parentage are very complicated. If there already is a court order that says, for example, that someone is the father of the child, and he or the mother wants to ask for genetic (DNA) testing, it may be too late.”
If you wish to dispute paternity, do so as soon as your suspicions arise – and ask a lawyer for help.
What Happens If You Find Out You Are Not the Father?
Finding out you are not biologically related to your child can be painful no matter how old they are. Nevertheless, you have more options within the first 2 years of a child’s life. By disputing paternity, you can terminate your presumed parental rights and responsibilities, choose to give up your relationship with the child, and avoid paying child support. Otherwise, you may continue being the child’s legal parent, which makes you responsible for your child’s wellbeing and gives you the right to custody and visitation – even if you and your spouse get divorced.
After 2 years, successfully disputing paternity in California courts is extremely difficult. You have been raising your child, and the court will continue to protect and uphold your rights and responsibilities as a father.
If you have an established relationship with your child, try to put the child’s best interests first and your ego second. The court will act in your child’s best interests, not yours, and you are the only father your child has ever known.
Your emotions matter, too, but do your best to manage them without harming your child. Many men choose to divorce their unfaithful wives but maintain relationships with their legal children.
When you doubt paternity, your decisions are up to you. Speaking to a therapist can be extremely helpful – and discussing the legal aspects of your situation with an attorney is the best way to navigate your parental rights and responsibilities in the wake of this life-changing information.
If you find out you are not the father, Burch Shepard Family Law Group can help you understand your rights and legal options during a free consultation. Our board-certified family law specialists* have more than 100 years of legal experience, and we have handled plenty of paternity cases.
We are committed to our clients, and we can help you navigate this difficult situation. Call us at (949) 565-4158 or contact us online to get started today.
*Our lead attorneys are Board Certified in Family Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.